Heavy schedule ‘killing’ Premier League elite

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It’s often been cited as a reason behind England’s failure at international tournaments, but the latest theory suggests that Premier League football is about to suffer from its hectic schedule.

The winter break has often been touted as a solution to the problem, giving players the opportunity to rest over the coldest period in the British Isles.

And, whilst he doesn’t discuss the topic specifically in an interview with the BBC, the Manchester City football administrator insists something must be done to make changes in the game.

“We need to think very carefully about the calendar in terms of how we’re scheduling games,” he said.

“Just recently we had the African Cup of Nations, which is a bizarre situation where you’re going to lose players for five or six weeks, so that’s wrong – completely wrong.

“Now somebody somewhere has got to try and bring all the parties together and start thinking seriously about what we are putting our players through.”

The African Cup of Nations affected the Citizens more than most, with brothers Kolo and Yaya Toure helping the Ivory Coast reach the final of the competition.

Other clubs, like Manchester United, specifically look to avoid signing African players so to not lose them during a season.

Why the competition takes place in the mid-season of all major leagues in Europe is a particular bone of contention for fans, but the weather conditions in large parts of Africa during the summer months means it would simply not be possible for the games to take place at that time.

But, as Marwood suggests, something has to be done. The Premier League, the most watched domestic division in the world, loses some of its best players to a major international tournament.

Imagine the European Championships taking place in January. Fans would demand the players to give there all for their country, but then return to club football the following week and do the same for their employer.

It is, undoubtedly, a very strange situation. And Marwood believes it’s the Premier League which suffers most because of the intensity of the football played.

“I don’t think other countries suffer as much because of the intensity in our game. I think we suffer more. I respect and understand people’s agendas, but I think people need to understand that we are providing something that is unique and special to millions and millions of people through the talent that we have performing,” he continued.

“If we damage that talent – and we’re in danger of doing that by asking too much – then it’s a serious concern. I can understand the Premier League’s agenda and the club’s agenda, but somewhere in this people have got to think about what we’re generating here in respect of domestically we want the best environment in world football.

“It’s recognised that that’s something we pretty much believe, and that’s not an arrogance, we believe that the English Premier League is (the best) – you just have to look at the audience numbers from around the world to see that it’s a much wanted product.

“We’re in danger of killing that product if we’re going to ask too much of the players.”

But to attempt to separate the Premier League is to cause a major problem in itself. The Spanish, Italian, German and French leagues all have their own issues with the African Cup of Nations, as well as international friendlies and fixtures that impact their own domestic schedule.

And, for change to be made, all the countries would have to work together to try and make an impact in how things currently work are run through the FIFA offices.

Marwood’s comments, to some extent, isolate the Premier League from others, and whilst he might be right with regards to the intensity the game is played in the division, that doesn’t mean that it deserves special treatment.

And, a change to the African Cup of Nations schedule wouldn’t solve the issue of player burnout, which is a much broader topic within the game.

There seem few possible solutions – either a winter break or reducing the number of teams in the top flight appear to be the only possible answers.

But that would mean fewer matches for fans to watch and less money from television and gate receipts. The fear is that, not every club would be willing to sacrifice that for their players. Cash is king, and players are a valuable commodity in a money-making machine that is a professional football club.

With that in mind, it’s unlikely that an agreement will ever be reached over a break in the current football schedule, particularly in England.

But, with all the leagues working together and holding significant power, something might just be done in relation to the crazy nature of the African Cup of Nations which, by the way, is set to take place AGAIN in 2013.

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